Our planet has a lot of junk here and there, so as in space those need to be cleaned as well. So, this Friday, Japan sent a cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS), carrying a space junk collector made in conjunction with a fishnet company.
The automated cargo ship, named Kounotori, blasted off from Tanegashima Space Center in the North Pacific.
Scientists from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are experimenting with a vessel, which has a tether to pull trash out of orbit. If you’re wondering what those space junk are, let me tell you, those are basically leftover pieces from old expeditions. There are rocket pieces, jetsam, and old satellites floating in the space. Besides, around 100 million pieces of this kind of space junk are circling the Earth, which could raise a great problem for space traveling in future.
So, researchers are planning to clean the space using an electrodynamic tether made from thin wires of stainless steel and aluminum.
“The tether uses our fishnet plaiting technology, but it was really tough to intertwine the very thin materials,” company engineer Katsuya Suzuki told AFP. “The length of the tether this time is 700 metre (2,300 feet), but eventually it’s going to need to be 5,000 to 10,000 metre-long to slow down the targeted space junk.”
More of those kinds of tethers could be sent to space in the near future if this experiment proves successful. Apart from the space junk collector, the vessel is also carrying batteries and drinking water for the astronauts living in the ISS.